“The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes (2011 ) – book review

Still breathing out through my nose since finishing this book ten minutes ago (that was about a year ago, admittedly, but still remember picking up my pen to write this down at the time).

I have got such a soft spot for these melancholy missives, but it’s not shared by absolutely everyone. Not every reviewer is taken up by the unreliable narrator at work here, but this book has a dénouement that I found pretty darn brilliant, so have definitely joined the ranks of ‘those in favour, m’lud’.

I think Julian Barnes is a superb, dexterous author, who leads you by the hand but likes to outmanoeuvre you as an avid onlooker. “Arthur & George” also had me going ‘oh, ver-ry clever’ much nearer the beginning of that particular tome, in a very different way, and I suspect the bias swerves off in yet another direction for the as yet unread “Flaubert’s Parrot”. Any light to shed?

This story certainly makes you ponder over the dangers of putting pen to paper and the trouble it can get you into, even unwittingly. Reminded me of that unforgettable A’level English book from nineteen-hundred-and-dot (that being when I did the A’level, never mind the publication date), when the infamous letter that “Tess” of the d’Urbervilles has penned gets slipped under the doormat and is left unread by Angel. One of my most memorable moments, when I remember – epiphany – thinking just how bloody fantastic it is to read. Unthinkably agonising moment in the book, and pure literary brilliance.

Loved the observation on one’s memory playing tricks on us here :

“When you start forgetting things – I don’t mean Alzheimer’s, just the predictable consequences of ageing – there are different ways to react. You can sit there and try to force your memory into giving up the name of that acquaintance, flower, train station, astronaut… Or you admit failure and take practical steps with reference books and the internet. Or you can just let it go – forget about remembering – and then sometimes you find that the mislaid fact surfaces an hour or a day later, often in those long waking nights that age imposes. Well, we all learn this, those of us who forget things.”

Back in the here and now, what I also enjoyed about this book was the way Barnes explores the whole trickiness of adolescent behaviour – who hasn’t made some bad choices back then, or been guilty of knowing they were being too annoying for words, and who are we to judge? For those less taken with the tale, can very much appreciate that young and not so young Tony could be seen as extrêmement vexatious, but I really did enjoy this quick read from cover to cover – especially the way it ends!! Cliff hanger, and please report back if you agree, or (especially) if you don’t?

Read in May 2014.

Rating : 10/10 – A FAVOURITE BOOK

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, Nominee for Costa Book Award 2011, Winner of European Literature Prize 2012 …

Image taken from here.
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8 Responses to “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes (2011 ) – book review

  1. Pingback: The Man Booker Prize and 2015 winner of the Man Booker International Prize | Literary ramblings etc

  2. jenp27 says:

    I loved this book too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, have you read “Flaubert’s Parrot”, by any chance? Thanks for your comment, have a good weekend, Nicolax


  4. TimPa59 says:

    Yes, well, I remember not particularly liking the book, but I couldn’t remember why… a predictable consequence of ageing… so I looked up a synopsis on Wikipedia which nudged me to recall, dimly, that my conclusion was that it’s a clever book, but cleverness is not all. It impresses and sometimes illuminates, but it doesn’t achieve sublimity. Whatever that is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Have noted that many a time the Booker prize winners are frequently held up to have penned clever rather than sublime reads, and TSOAE definitely hasn’t held the same appeal for you, I see – I really did enjoy it but can see that it is not everyone’s cup of tea! Am going to try Flaubert’s Parrot when can get to it and see how that goes; “Arthur & George” has a very different tone if you haven’t already come across it, and is less overtly ‘clever’ if you’d be up for giving JB another shot….xx


  6. Tim, I suspect George and Arthur, oops “Arthur & George” might appeal – elements of fact mixed with fiction and don’t read any reviews with the dreaded spoilers beforehand as there is an “oh aha” moment fairly early on – and then once finished it is quite fun to then delve into the story, if you see what I mean. Never want to be guilty of giving too much away for fear of ruining the reading experience – keep me posted….xxx


  7. Pingback: Wish List 2016: New Year’s Resolutions, plus The BBC’s 100 Greatest British Novels | Literary ramblings etc

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